The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commands attention. When you get something in the mail from the tax agency, you can bet you'll open it right away.
That's why the agency is a favorite of scammers who try to trick victims into disclosing personal information. A new scheme is packaged in a spam email with the heading "Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR)."
The first line if the email is designed to get your attention and, perhaps, make you drop your guard:
"This is in reference to your 2010 U.S. Individual Income Tax Return we seem to have some discrepancies with your filing."
Notice there is a missing period after "Return" and "we" is not capitalized, as the first word of a new sentence should be. In addition, the email header, with the IRS logo, has been enlarged and distorted from an original and is a poor copy.
The biggest giveaway that this is not coming from the IRS are instructions in the email to download an attached form, fill it out with account information for all foreign and domestic bank accounts, and to fax it back.
The IRS would never seek sensitive financial information in that way. People who comply with the email will have their accounts emptied by the scammers.
The scam coincides with the recent announcement by the IRS of an effort to collect owed taxes from offshore accounts. Increasingly scammers model their schemes after events in the news so that there might be a slight ring of authenticity with their victims.
The IRS email scam also uses the element of fear. It notes that "it is a crime to evade or defeat the collection of a federal tax."
Consumers who receive this email -- or one like it -- should simply delete it from their inbox. You can also report it to the IRS by calling 1-800-829-3676.